Obama’s Media Takeover Powers: The Infrastructure of a Police State
This article by Glen Ford is re-posted from Black Agenda Report.
Earlier this month, on a Friday evening after most of the White House press corps had gone home, President Obama gave himself the power to take over, or shut down, all of the nation’s communications systems – including the Internet. The executive order is supposedly designed to preserve “survivable, resilient, enduring” and effective communications so that the government can speak to the people in the event of some emergency. But what he has authorized is the imposition of total silence except for the sound of his own voice.
Clearly, in a legitimate emergency, the government needs ways to communicate – but that does not require a monopoly. So, why is Obama giving himself – and any president that follows him into the Oval Office – a total communications on-and-off switch?
The administration claims it is authorized to bring all communications under its control by the 1934 Communications Act, which allows the takeover of broadcast stations and other wireless media if there exists a state of war, or the threat of war. Back then, of course, the public was fairly sure that they knew what “war” was: Congresses declared it. The “threat” of war was pretty self-evident, too: it was when other nations were threatening to attack the United States, or vice-versa.
However, we are now in what both Presidents Bush and Obama have made clear is a perpetual war, a war that is not defined by any legal norms or foundational statutes, a war against whoever the president decides is the enemy – which can include American citizens. Both of these War Presidents have told us in multitudinous ways that we are on a war footing – and have not been off it since 9/11, and will not be on any other kind of footing until some future president gives the “all clear” sign.
Obama’s executive order has nothing to do with getting out an effective distress call to the nation during a crisis. The “emergency” he has in mind is a State of Emergency – martial law. He is methodically preparing the infrastructure for a police state. Obama already has in place his preventive detention legislation, which he signed into law in the news-less hours of last New Year’s Eve. It empowers the president to lock up whomever he chooses, without charges or trial, and to keep them for as long as the executive sees fit. Based on the near-limitless powers Obama already claims to possess, he can also kill such enemies of the state if that is in the interests of national security in this time of war. There is nothing that he recognizes as law that says he can’t take such drastic executive action against thousands, or tens of thousands of Americans in one sweep.
And now, with his new executive order, if the president finds it convenient, he can take over the national communications network – down to the last, feeble Internet voice – to explain why it was necessary for all those people to disappear.
Or maybe he’ll say nothing at all. And nobody else will dare to say anything, either.